Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Danger of Feeling Isolated

We are inherently social. Even the most die-hard introvert has the desire to belong to something that is more than just them. It's a longing to be part of a movement. We long to be part of a community of people who share the same values and the same vision of the world.

But what happens when you feel isolated? What happens when you don't feel like you belong anywhere?

Like a tree that needs sunlight and water to grow and thrive, a person who isn't surrounded by people who are investing in them begins to die away inside. No one sees it. Most people are probably completely oblivious to it. But I bet there are a lot of them out there, and I'm afraid for what will happen if no one steps in.

In the Christian world, we say that God loves you and will never leave you. Even when bad situations occur, we're urged to be believe that God still loves us. We're told that we could do nothing to earn God's love and nothing to lose it. 

Many people believe we're not supposed to question it, and that it's unspiritual to question it. God said it, so we should believe it. On the surface of it, I agree we should just trust that God loves us and doesn't ever leave us.

Even if your experience tells you otherwise.

But that's the problem, isn't it? I can't be the only one who has felt at times like God not only got distant, but completely abandoned me. He's nowhere in sight, and I can't bring him back. 

Christianity is interesting because there's so much risk involved in it. And I'm not talking about big risks like the risk of dying if you go on a mission trip to an uncivilized country. Not even the risk that God might actually call you to die for him.

I'm talking about the risk that's inherently built in to the idea that "It is not good for man to be alone." It's the risk involved in God's decision to so often work through people to express his love toward people. God may be perfect, but people are definitely flawed.

If a person's only chance of feeling the love of Jesus is if I express that love toward that person as God's representative, what happens if I say no? What if I feel uncomfortable, so I just neglect to do it? What happens if I hold back God's love from someone?

Because I've watched the church of Jesus fail someone I care about so many times that God's love feels more like hate, it's really easy to start questioning why God chooses to work this way. It's not like God is unaware of the risk. He obviously knows when people are going to fail to do what he intends for them to do. But it's the way he chooses to work, and if God is a perfectly blameless being, where does that leave us?

In the Bible, God called a man named Jonah to go to a corrupt nation of people and show his mercy by telling them they needed to respond with their hearts in adoration of God rather than the raw hatred they had always been expressing. But Jonah failed the first time and ran away. Thankfully, God's love for Ninevah was strong enough that he called Jonah again, but what if Jonah would have ran away again?

It's a horrible existence to live in isolation. To feel like you don't belong. To feel like God himself hates you because his people, who are called to express his heart to a dark and dying world, fail to do that very thing.

It scares me because I probably do it myself every day and don't even think about it. It scares me because I've been able to see firsthand the way a person's soul withers and weathers because of the failure of church.

Author Caleb Breakey recently wrote a book, Called to Stay, about the failures of church in this area and God's desire for burned believers to stay with it and be infiltrators. Why? Because there's too much at risk for a church not to express the loving heart of God to people. People desperately need to know that Jesus loves them and that there is a community of people where they can belong and feel encouraged to press on in the daily struggles of life.

I think there are more people who feel like they're living in a prison of their own isolation more than we realize. It's so easy to be inwardly focused that we never see the people hurting around us. Imagine if people who were called by the name of Jesus joined together and relentlessly pursued the hearts of people the way God desires.

Question: Has there ever been a time when you felt like you didn't belong to something bigger than you? How did you handle it?

Photo Credit: Mariano Kamp via PhotoPin CC

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